Reviewed in Point and click adventures
Morphopolis may be one of the most beautiful games we’ve seen this year, but its remarkable looks aren’t always backed up by strong puzzle design. Taking on the role of a caterpillar as it undergoes five metamorphoses into ever larger insects, you’ll find hidden objects and solve puzzling minigames across more than a dozen scenes — each as lusciously detailed as the last — all backed by a stellar soundtrack amidst a bare-bones interface. Feeling somewhat like Machinarium meets The Tiny Bang Story, Morphopolis sees you dragging your finger around to walk your insect between scenes. Each location holds one or more obstacles that can only be overcome after you collect all the objects it’s missing. Sometimes that leads to the obstacle simply moving out of the way; other times, you must complete a minigame or puzzle. Most of these are fairly straightforward, though trial and error is necessary as there’s no guidance, and a few prove confounding, especially given the limited feedback on offer. We were stumped for some time, for example, by how to interact with one puzzle that turned out to be based on peg solitaire. Astounding presentation and imaginative world designs are what set Morphopolis apart. Each scene is akin to a painting come to life, hand-illustrated in gorgeous watercolor hues and pencil-sketch precision, and the world seems to grow and alter in perspective as your parasitic critter inhabits larger hosts. All the while, multi-layered and earthy ambient music sets a laid-back tone that perfectly suits the dawdling pace and relaxing mechanics of the adventure. The problem is that it’s set back by puzzles that alternate between overly simplistic and too opaque, encouraging experimentation without providing enough feedback with which to gauge how your interactions affect the system. Morphopolis ultimately relies too strongly on its looks to get by with a relatively weak design. The bottom line. The astonishing illustrations, excellent soundtrack, and delightful world of Morphopolis may be worth the price of admission alone in what is an otherwise middling hidden-object game.